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· Culture Notes: Guilty Pleasures (The Kindly One)

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Culture Notes: Guilty Pleasures (The Kindly One)
by The Kindly One



I once told a co-worker I had Britney Spear's greatest hits CD. She told me that's something I probably shouldn't tell a lot of people. Therein is the truth of the phrase "guilty pleasures" - they're pleasures other people think you should feel guilty for. As for me, I feel no guilt about enjoying Britney Spears's bubble-gum pop or anything else on this list, although I have to admit it's kind of embarrassing looking up Britney Spears picture on your work break.


Ziggi, "Need To Tell You This"

I went out with a guy once who showed up thirty minutes late and ten minutes in told me that he and I were like thesis and anti-thesis, and that basically, he didn't have to ask me any more questions about me because he already knew the answer would be the opposite of whatever he said. He's still single.

Among the other pearls of wisdom he gifted me with that night, he told me he could "just kind of tell" I was a hippie kid "because I was wearing Chucks." I don't know what Converse has to do with peace and recycling, but hippie kid pegged. One of the few holdovers left from my progressive middle school experience is an enduring love of reggae, and this particular blend of reggae and hip-hop is right up my alley. Plus, I used to fly through Schipol frequently when I lived in Scandinavia, so the video helps reduce homesickness.



What Not To Wear is not a highly innovative show, either in terms of the makeover format or in terms of individual episodes. Once you've seen one episode, you've seen them all. Also, I am not sure that all the "tough love" doled out by Clinton and Stacey is so much constructive as it is their abuse of their public forum to passive-aggressively bitch. However, there has not been one episode that the end didn't (mostly) justify the means. I get real pleasure from seeing the light come on in the makeover victim's eyes as he (or she) finally gets it - that his cartoonish style has really just been a front, that the sartorial buffoonery has been less a stylistic choice and more a diversion or a hiding place, and that it is actually okay to come out of that shell and look good. I don't know how long these revelations stick with these people. I don't even know if they ever fully take root in them (or care). I am really just deeply and completely satisfied with that moment of "aha" and can more or less take the rest of the show just for that moment.


I've never been a Michelle Trachtenburg fan, but I love her in Gossip Girl. She's the perfect villain - terrible to her victims, but you love to watch her strike. Ultimately, Gossip Girl's real pleasures are not really in the clothes or the styling, but in the perverse pleasure in seeing people dish it out, over and over again. Although the show started out chronicling the (now) good girl, Gossip Girl has become a celebration of mean kids, whether they're girls or boys, and the intelligence, pent-up anger, and lack of suitable releases that turns them into the monsters they are. It's just as thrilling to hear their witty, (sometimes) snappy dialogue as it is to see them assert themselves as King and Queen Bees and knock their opponents down. Most thrilling of all is enjoying the sense of vindication that comes with watching them unsuccessfully stalk their prey, finally reveal them to be the villains they are, and skillfully knock them down to the peg where they belong. These might not be cheerful or healthy role models, but watching the mechanics of how they operate is an enervating way to spend a Monday evening.


Much as I enjoy Love Story as a kind of time machine, the great joy I get out of it is its sincerity. There is an earnestness in Love Story that isn't present in contemporary films, and dopey and sappy as the movie is, it's that uncomplicated earnestness that hits me like a knife in the gut at the movie's end. Unlike modern films, which insist on promoting "realism" by showing every little difficulty/PC "difference"/moment of self-consciousness in the characters' worlds, Love Story has two dilemmas. That's it. The rest of the movie is just about love, and as simple as that concept seems, try selling it right now. So even though there are cheesy snow angel sequences and one of the worst quotes of all time, in the end, I always end up crying because of the simple, pure truths behind the story: Death hurts. Make the most of your time, because it's all that you get with your loved ones. Love is worth it.

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